Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

Casus Belli


When England declared war on Germany in 1914 and again in 1939 it had not been invaded, its frontiers crossed or its citizens murdered. The basis for the outbreak of hostilities in both instances was simply a mutual defence agreement with other countries.

War is a terrible thing. It involves death, destruction and misery that can end quickly as happened in Israel in 1967 (the Six-Day War), or go on for months or years, as happened with the two world wars of the twentieth century (WWI four years, WWII six years). Whether England was justified in going to war in both cases may be open to debate, but once the country had embarked on that course there was no turning back. The wholesale death and devastation incurred as a result of those two wars had an indelible effect throughout Europe.

Some wars are initiated out of greed or the desire to control more territory and gain wealth, as was the case with many of the wars that raged in the Ancient Near East and Europe from the dawn of history. Some of them are mentioned in the Bible and the annals of the Mesopotamian nations of the time. An enormous bas relief now in the British Museum depicts in gory detail the conquest of Lachish by the Assyrians in the first century BCE. Alexander the Great conquered most of the known world because he wanted to extend the territory he controlled. The Romans conquered and subjugated nations wherever they could in order to extend their empire and enrich Rome. The War of Jenkins’ Ear, which lasted nine years in the eighteenth century, was the result of the long-standing enmity between England and Spain and erupted when Spanish sailors boarded an English ship off the Caribbean coast and cut off the captain’s ear. And let’s not forget Attila the Hun and Ghengis Khan who ruled empires, waged wars and decimated entire populations across huge swathes of Asia and Europe.

So when a heavily-armed band of Hamas terrorists from Gaza entered Israel by force and proceeded to slaughter anyone and everyone they could lay their hands on, including children, babies and the elderly, in the most cruel way imaginable, making sure to film their actions and proudly display them for all the world to see, Israel was well within its rights to retaliate with as much force as it could muster. If the murder of innocent civilians isn’t considered a just cause for declaring war, then what is?

And now there is uproar all over the world at the loss of innocent lives in Gaza. No one is complaining about the way the murderous Hamas rulers embedded themselves in Gaza’s civilian population. And everyone is ignoring the constant barrage of rockets fired from Gaza at Israel’s civilian population. Israel has created a formidable defence system preventing those rockets from wreaking the death and destruction they are intended to achieve. In contrast with Hamas, Israel does not target civilians, but where would we be today if the world had objected to civilian casualties in the Second World War, when the Allies carpet-bombed German cities, especially Hamburg, Dresden and Berlin, in response to the German bombardment of London, Coventry and other cities? Unfortunately, civilian casualties arse an inevitable by-product of war, and anyone who is concerned for the welfare of their population should refrain from initiating hostilities.

About the Author
I was born and brought up in England. I am a graduate of the LSE and the Hebrew University. I have lived in Israel since 1964. I am an experienced translator, editor and writer.